Leta Stetter Hollingworth's "Children Above 180 IQ"

In 20 years of searching, backed by the resources of Columbia University, Leta Hollingworth was able to locate only 12 children with IQs above 180. In her book, she also briefly describes 19 other cases reported by others. We might be led to suppose that IQs above 180 were indeed rare in the 1920s if it weren't for the fact that the Terman screening of 250,000 Califonia schoolchildren turned up 26 of them... about 1 out of every 9,500 schoolchildren. The average IQ of Dr. Hollingworth's 12 case studies might be something like 190, corresponding to a deviation IQ of about 168.4.
In the intervening 60 to 80 years since Dr. Hollingworth conducted her studies, the Flynn Effect has boosted scores on IQ tests by, on average, 3 points per decade. If someone with an IQ of 100 in 1920 were to take a present-day IQ test, they might be expected to score no more than an IQ of 80 on it. Conversely, when someone with a present-day IQ of 100 takes an IQ test like the 1916 Stanford-Binet, the Army Alpha Test, or the Thorndike CAVD, they would probably get no less than a IQ of 125 (100/80). In other words, they would get a mental age of 20 on the Stanford Binet. Similarly, someone with a present-day IQ of 120 would get a 150 (ignoring ceiling effects) on the Stanford Binet, and would be assigned a mental age of 24. Following this line of reasoning to its inevitable conclusion, someone with a present-day ratio IQ of 152 and a deviation IQ of 145 can be expected to make a score (again, neglecting ceiling effects) upon the California Test of Mental Maturity that I have here in my file drawer, of 30.4  years of mental age, thereby matching an adult in 1920 with an IQ of 190. Is that reasonable? To help you decide, I've summarized 5 of her 12 cases. (I'll try to get the rest listed by tomorrow or Monday.) What level of IQ do you think it would take to match the performances of her 12 children? What present-day level of IQ typically goes with reading at 3? How about the ages at which they start to talk in sentences?
I've mentioned above the extraordinary stories of extraordinary children like Michael and Maeghan Such children are presumably quite rare, occurring at the one-in-many-million level.  But even though Dr. Hollingworth seems to have thought that her children above 180 IQ were very rare, seemingly, they weren't that rare even in her own time, occurring once in every 10,000-to-25,000 children. It may be that there were children in 1920 who said their first sentence at 6 months, and who began to read at or shortly after 12 months.
Be that as it may, the answer that would help us to decide how much (if any) of the Flynn Effect is a true improvement in intelligence is the frequency of occurrence of today's children who can do what Leta Hollingworth's children could do at the ages cited in the case histories below. If 1 in every 1,000 or 1 in every 2,000 of today's young children rival Dr. Hollingworth's children above 180 IQ, then perhaps we can entertain the idea that the Flynn Effect is actually a boost in true intelligence.

See what you think.

Dr. Hollingworth's 12 Case Histories:

Table I.Summary Description of 12 Children with IQs Above 180

 C S IQ Talked R Personality, Character Age A M 184-191 10 mos. 3 undemonstrative, absent-minded, obstinate , dominant 86 B F 188-189 9 mos. 3 socially very adept, good mixer, dominant 88 C M 188-190 16 mos. 3 unsociable, prig, tactless, exacting 87 D M 184 8 mos. 1.5 socially adept, no play, chess D E M 187 24 mos. 3 congenial, undemonstrative, no play, private, no hobby 92 F M 162-200+ 12 mos. 4.5 sociable, severe character flaws D G M 163-192 ? 6 sociable, excellent character, exacting 77 H F 148-189 16 mos. 4.5 sociable, adult among children 77 I F 184 18 mos. ? sociable, outstanding supporting traits 71 J F 197- 200+ ? 3 sociable, played, adult among children 71 K M 143-178 2 3 loner, exacting 77 L M 153-199 9 mos. 4 sociable, serious, exacting 73

C  (Column 1) - Letter code for identifying each child.
(Column 2) - Sex.
IQ (Column 3) - Range of measured IQs.
Talked (Column 4) - Approximate age at which child spoke first words.
R  (Column 5) - Age at which child learned to read.
Personality, Character (Column 6) - Personality and character traits.
Age (Column 7) - Present age, if still living. ("D" = "Known to be Deceased")

Note that of the 12 children listed above, 9 have more than one IQ score listed. Of the 9, 5 have a test score that ranges from 37 points to 41 points--in other words, about 40 points--below their other score(s). In addition, Child I who scored 184 on her one test, unlike the other children described here, exhibited achievement test results more in line with an IQ in the 150's than in the 180's.

Child A:
Brother's IQ scores: 145, 152, 145, 161

1.  Born: 1914.

2.  Early History:

• A began to say words at 10 months.
• A picked out letters on a typewriter at 14 months.
• At 12 months, he began classifying his blocks according to the shapes of their letters.
• He knew the alphabet at 12 months, and, tiring of the same old same old, spontaneously recited it backwards at 16 months.
• At 18 months: he could run simple errands.
• At 30 months, he could copy colored designs from kindergarten blocks.
• Before he was 3, he rhymed words, and picked out letters on billboards.
• He learned to read at 3, and read fluently before he started private school at 5.
• At 3 1/2, A invented an imaginary land, called "Center Land".
• A taught himself some arithmetic processes before he was 6.
• When A was 8, his father taught him arithmetic shortcuts. He could then quickly square any number up to 100.
3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics:
• "His mind often seems to be miles away." (Sound like anyone you know?)
• "A is not neat and orderly." (I've always said, "A neat and orderly desktop is a sign of an idle mind.") (I'd like to believe that.) (I'd really like to believe that.)
• "A still has lapses of attention during class lessons."
• "He is slow to take advice."
• "He is affectionate and kindly, while not overly demonstrative."
•     "I am sorry about A's coat. I laid it on his desk, as he was cooking when it came... Evidently, he didn't notice it on his desk when he came in later. Knowing A's absent-mindeded habits, I ought to have called attention to the coat." (Heh, heh.)
• "In working with a group, A is inclined to be either dictatorial or to insist upon doing everything himself. This may be because of youth or because he sees so clearly what is to be done, but I think he is a little selfish and obstinate. A is a very lovable child with a tender heart and a good deal of emotional capacity, generally kept hidden, so he is not difficult to manage. It is difficult, however, to make him assume responsibilities about material or work which is irksome, such as writing, and he is very untidy."
• "He is easily bored by repetitions of matter once presented."
• His nickname, assigned by other children, was "Sleeping Beauty" because he was never ready in games.
•   Myopia. "Center Land";
4.  Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 6-6 187 166.7 7-6 191 169.0 76 7-10 187 166.7 8-8 184 165.0 95 9-6 186 167.3 128 10-6 166 11-6 162 14-6 194 16-6 422 17-7 204 Average IQ 187 166.9

5.  Follow-Up:
A graduated from college at 19 and married at 25.
Child A would now be 86 years old.

Child B:

1. Born: 1912

2.  Early History:

• She talked at 9 months.
• Noticed letters on billboards at 24 months.
• Read simple books by 3.
• Selective private schools.
• Brother (IQ = 167) didn't read until 4.5.
3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics
• Never a school problem. 8-3: 189 (168); 9-4: 188(167); 12-1: Army Alpha: 142.
• Large for her age. Good mixer.
• Organized other children.
4.  Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 8-3 189 168.0 9-4 188 167.0 84 12-1 ---- ---- 142 Average IQ 188.5 167.5

5.  Follow-Up:
Was 12 at last contact. Wanted to become "a celebrated authoress, actress, artist, and musician".
Child B would now be 88 years old.

Child C:
Father dropped out of elementary school. Mother graduated from high school.

1.  Born: 1913

2.  Early History:

• C talked fluently at 16 months.
• He began to learn to read then, and could read simple matter by 3.
• He started school at 6.
3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics
• "He is somewhat of a prig" (partly because of lack of desire to play with children his own age, and partly because of his use of long words).
• "He is not very tactful in human relationships."
• "He is s stickler for the exact; no statement is right unless it is exactly right. It is easy to see how this trait might antagonize average children of C's age, and even teachers and others in authority."
4.  Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 9-3 190 168.4 146 9-10 188 167.0 12-1 ---- ---- 195 435 13-7 435 18-6 446 (Max) 19-6 210 Average IQ 189 167.5

5.  Follow-Up
Graduated from columbia at 20. Entered NYU Medical School, and was an interne in 1940 at age 27.
Child C would now be 87 years old.

Child D

1.  Born:1910

2.  Early History:

• Said words at 8 months. Said "Little boy" when his shadow appeared on the wall.
• Talked in sentences at 11 months.
• At 18 months, he learned to read and count.
• At 19 months, he "counts all day long".
• At 2, he was using words that express relationship, such as "shall", "will" (correctly), "but", "and", "my", "mine".
• At 2.5, D's vocabulary was >1700 words.
• D invented a language called "Bornish" for his imaginary land of "Bornington".
• D was remarkably adept at drawing and at music.
• At 12, he had finished his college entrance requirements in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, all with high marks..
• D loved to classify
3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics
• At 7, D's favorite amusements were skating, "Mechano", reading, playing ball, writing, tabulating, solitaire, chess, and numerical calculation.
• He liked other children and liked to be with them.
• He established relations with them by editing newspapers for them, teaching them about nature, and the like.
• He didn't enjoy playing in the sense of purposeless sensorimotor activity.
• He was very interested in science.
• As a 12-year-old college freshman, he maintained social contacts, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from a large Eastern university at 16.
4.  Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 7-4 184 165.0 10-11 185 12-3 ---- ---- 142 Average IQ 184 165 106

5.  Follow-Up
D undertook graduate work with distinction, and became a research chemist in the film industry. He died in 1938.
Child D is deceased.

Child E

1.  Born:1908

2.  Early History:

• Didn't talk until 2.
• Learned to read books like "Peter Rabbit" before he was 3.
• Attended kindergarten from 3 to 5.
• He had an imaginary land on Venus.
• By 8, with the aid of a tutor, he had covered
•
• He finished 9th grade by 9
• He graduated from high school at 12.
• He graduated from Columbia Phi Beta Kappa at 15.
3.  Childhood Personality Characteristics
• Didn't like to play and would only do so if forced
• He was very impersonal and agreeable with other children.
• His favorite book at 8 was "Ivanhoe".
• E was very private.
• He was a good sport as well as a good scholar.
4.  Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 8-4 187 166.7 146 ---- 13-3 ---- ---- 194/201 ---- 18-11 ---- ---- ---- 441 Average IQ 187 166.7

5.  Follow-Up

• He received his M. A. at 16.
• He completed his Ph. D. except for dissertation by 18-9, receiving the Ph. D. at 22.
• He was ordained a deacon and received his divinity degree at 21.
• He was ordained an Episcopal priest at 24.
• He married at 31.
Child E would now be 92 years old.

Child F

1.  Born:1914

2.  Early History:
"F" had an enormous head at birth. Spoke in short sentences at about 12 months. F learned to read between 4 and 5.

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

• F preferred playmates of his own age and sex. He would spend hours at a time "using marbles for soldiers and working out military formations".
• When with other children in school, he was somewhat backward in joining in their outdoor games.

4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 9-10 162 163 ---- 10-2 >182 ---- ---- ---- 11-6 >208? ---- ---- ---- 18-2 ---- ---- 192 ---- Average IQ 187 166.7

5.  Follow-Up

• F's was a truant in high school. While AWOL, he would be found at the library or at a chess club.
• Refused to accommodate his own interests and ideas to the regular routine.
• Showed no interest in college but spent his time on chess, bridge, and the library.
• After four years (in 1934), a patron friend got him into the City College of New York. He lasted two months.
• In 1935, entered the University of Chicago, married, and graduated.
• He entered graduate school, switched to law at the University of Chicago.
• Chess, bridge, and racing continued to intrude themselves.
• The marriage didn't run smoothly, he incurred additional indebtedness, but he continued his law studies with passable records.
• At this point, he developed inoperable abdominal cancer, and died at 24.
• F was obviously a disaster from start to finish. (Is it possible that F suffered brain damage at birth that affected his personality?)
Child F died in 1937.

Child G

1. Born: 1923

2. Early History
G learned to read before he started school, but G's parents didn't realize that he was exceptional(!?)

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics

• Loved to read books, but learned to make friends with other children. Developed a love of ball games and swimming. Interested in chemistry.
• Was at first frustrated with school but became contented when he was accelerated.
• Described as prudent and self-reliant, with will power, desire for knowledge, wish to excel, and originality.
• He was conscientious, truthful, cheerful, sympathetic, and had a sense of humor.
• He wore glasses for an error of refraction, and had "a slight speech impediment and a nervous mannerism."
• He always wanted to do things as well as possible.
• He set out to improve his poor penmanship by learning manuscript writing.
• He was full of questions about scientific aspects of the things and processes he saw.
4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 6-7 163 152 ---- ---- 8-0 192 169.5 ---- ---- 9-10 >176 >160 ---- ---- 10-10 Perfect ---- ---- ---- Average IQ

5.  Follow-Up:
G graduated from high school at 15, and started at Harvard on a scholarship.
Child G would now be 77 years old.

Child H:

1. Born: 1923

2. Early History:

• Began to talk at 16 months.
• Learned to read between 4 and 5.
• At 2 years, 11 months, asked the meaning of "guarantee" and "neatness".
• Knew 1,400 words at 3:
Poem at 5 years, 6 months:
I'd give one wish to you and me.
And then we'd wish for every toy,
That every child should have some joy."

Poem at 8-6::
"On the clover fields he roams,
In the mountains,
At the homes,
Makes the trees and flowers grow,
And manufactures pure, white snow.
---God---"

Poem at 16:
The Gospel of Intolerance
"They said no
And who shall but hear the whisper of command shall without
question don his uniform and go out upon the field of
death in obediance.
And who shall lie asleep in the sun must be roused
And who shall sit in lavender chairs eating of the earth shall drop his spoon
And who shall lie with the woman shall turn from his passion
And all this shall be done without words as the answer to the
whisper of that which is calling and that which is in
command.
And who shall stuff his ears with cotton must needs be
twice called."

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

• "A quiet and unassuming person, but most responsive. She would like to be with children her own mental age, for then she would get a mental stimulus and a social life that seems denied her now."
• "A collection of many records showing H's reactions and opinions up to the age of 9 or 10 contain apt comments, sage remarks, and discriminating judgements. They reveal a lively intellectual curiosity and a socialized attitude."
4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 3-0 183 164 ---- ---- 5-11 148 142 ---- ---- 10-1 189 168 ---- ---- 10-6 ---- ---- 135 ---- 10-7 174+ 160+ ---- 394 Average IQ

5. Follow-Up:
No information is available beyond the age of 10 except for the "Gospel of Intolerance"
Child H would now be 77 years old.

1. Child I:

1. Born: 1929

2. Early History:

• I's dad was a "Termite" and a college professor. Her mother graduated with honors from the University of New Mexico.
• I talked in short sentences from 18 months to 2 years. Hyperactive and of high intelligence.
• First noticed by people from the University, at 15 months, because of "comprehension beyond that expected at such an age".
• Assigned a mental age of 7 at 3 or 4.
• Very much interested in nature study and science since her second or third year..
• From her second year, she had an active interest in recitation and in the dramatization of nursery rhymes, etc.
• "She reasons logically, and has a strong sense of justice."

STARS
The stars are shining bright tonight
I wonder why they shine so bright
I guess to make it light at night.
Age 5 years

THE CAVE MAN
The cave man was a hunter,
A hunter brave and bold,
He wore the skins of those he killed
To keep him from the cold.
And many ages later, when he had passed away,
Men found in caves the sharpened stones
That he used every day.
Age 7 years 5 months

FLOWERS
Red and yellow tulips blooming on the lawn,
Blooming in the woodland, trampled by the fawn,
Little yellow dandelions hiding in the meadows,
Given to the cow to eat every time she bellows.
Pretty red roses upon a bush
Like a little lady bursting with a blush.
White and purple lilacs on a bush of olive green
As a birthday present were given to a queen.
Age 7 years 5 months

SEARCHING
A wandering stranger am I
I believe in nothing but the great power of the gods,
The whole world have I searched for their wisdom.
But such wisdom found have I not.

Though I have searched the whole world over
Not a trace of such can be found.

I have searched on the hilltops, in the valleys----
I wonder if such things there are in this whole wide world of wonder.

The rocks have I broken
To find this great wisdom
But the wondrous marvels are not to be found.
Age 8 years

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

• "at least very excitable"
• "impulsive actions and extreme eagerness"
• "One of the most outstanding and best-liked students at Speyer School"
• She possessed desirable supporting traits which led the teachers to predict that she would "go farther" than any other child in the selected group of "rapid learners" (including two other children with IQs above 180, one of whom was at the IQ 200+ level).
4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 7-7 184 165 ---- ---- 8-3 ---- ---- ---- 361* 8-6 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 12-3 9-0 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 13-5 10-0 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 17-8 11-0 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 18-5 AverageIQ

The 3 SAT scores at ages 9, 10, and 11 are beyond the range of the test.

5. Follow-Up:
No follow-up was possible beyond the age of 9.
Child I would now be 71 years old.

Child J:

1. Born: 1929

2. Early History:

• J's father made 446 on the CAVD, indicating a childhood IQ of 180+.
• J's mother made a 435 on the CAVD, consistent with a childhood IQ not less than 170. (J comes by her intelligence honestly.
• Reading at 3. (This is the girl with an IQ of 200+ described above.)
• J wrote her name at 5.
• At 7 years, 10 months, J had read 6 Shakespearean plays, books, and used encyclopedias and dictionaries independently.
• At that time, she and her playmate were composing a "Jingles Book".
A MARCH SNOWFALL
It's March, yet snow is falling fast,
And one may hear the wintry blast.
A budding tree, a sign of spring,
Will to me great gladness bring.
When crocuses have put their heads,
Above the softened garden beds,
An when in all the fields around
Lively little lambkins bound,
And green creeps up across the lawn
I'll be glad the snow has gone.

3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:

• Played with children 2 or 3 years older.
• She played vigorously for several hours a day at many outdoor sports.
• She didn't need to do school homework.
• Remarkable degees of mental control, concentration, constructive visual imagery, and manipulation of mathematical and verbal concepts, rote memory, and inductive reasoning.
• Her manner was natural, free from conceit and from exhibitionism of her abilities.
• Good work habits.
• Parents had helped her learn to make friends rather than be in constant leadership
• Well-liked and accepted by her classmates.
4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 7-10 197+ 172+ ---- ---- 10-0 200+ 174+ ---- ---- 9-9 ---- ---- ---- 384 7-6 ---- ---- ---- SAT: 14-4 Average IQ

5. Follow-Up:
In J's case, as in I's, there was no follow-up beyond the age of 11.
Child J would now be 71 years old.

Child K:

1. Born: 1922

2. Early History:

• Began to talk at 2 and to read at 3.
• "While still a baby in his carriage, he could read "ice" and he would read the billboards."
• "Before 3, he would sit down with a book and read."
• He is "untiring in his attention to books. He will sit with an American history, an English history, and Goday's History of American Beginnings in Europe and the dictionary around him and will work for hours."
3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:
• At the age reported here K had no playmates. His younger brothers played by themselves. K did not like to play.
• His favorite recreations were reading and transferring pictures, and consulting almanacs and dictionaries.
• K has a passion for accuracy.
• He has as yet made no collections, and has no pets.
• He has no imaginary companions and no imaginary lands.
4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation  IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 6-4 143* 138 ---- ---- 8-3 178* 161.5 ---- ---- Average IQ

* - The examiner predicted that the child would score much higher when tested alone with the instructor.
* - The examiner says that only one or two 8-year-olds in 100,000 achieve such a score. The examiner adds, "Tell him he is going to have a bright future if he learns to get self-control. (I mention this last because you spoke of his having emotional upsets.)"

5. Follow-Up:
Child K graduated from high school at the age of 15.
Child K would now be 77 years old.

Child L:

1. Born: 1927

2. Early History:

• Father was electrician.
• Mother was graduate of Hunter College.
• Jewish grandparents are brilliant.
• Began to talk at 9 months.
3. Childhood Personality Characteristics:
• Young L's erudition was astonshing.
• Relatively large, robust, and impressive.
• Fondly dubbed "Professor"
• Intellectually easily the leader of the group
• Attitudes and abilities appreciated by both pupils and teachers.
• "Too mature".
• "Should be more of a nuisance"
• "Need to make him more of a real boy"
• Many constructive hobbies.
• Not much playing... lacked time and companions.
• Likes swimming, but not arganized sports
• Liked music but couldn't make it.
• Emotional adjustment better thn average
• Tends to be alone
• Rarely asks for sympathy or encouragement
• Tends to ignore advice of others
• Seldom or rarely substitutes daydreaming for action
• Tends to dominate in face-to-face situations
• Tends to be well-adjusted to environment
• Solitary
• Independent
• Non-social

4. Mental Measurements:

 Age Yr.-Mo. Ratio IQ Deviation IQ Army Alpha Thorndike CAVD 8-5 153* 145 ---- ---- 9-5 195 171 ---- ---- 10-8 >183 >164 ---- ---- 10-0 199 173 ---- ---- 9-6 ---- ---- ---- 392 11-6 ---- ---- ---- 416 9-7 15-6* ---- ---- ---- 10-7 17-6* ---- ---- ---- 11-7 18-2* ---- ---- ---- 12-7 UM* ---- ---- ---- Average IQ

* - On Otis Self-Administering Test.
* - Scholastic Achievement Tests

5. Follow-Up:
Planning to become a mathematics professor when last seen. Doing well, and preparing for college.
Child L would now be 73 years old.